Huge bear killed on 82 to be displayed |

Huge bear killed on 82 to be displayed

This summer has been relatively incident-free in terms of bear trouble, but Monday night marked the valley’s second ursine casualty on area roads.

At about 9:30 p.m., a Mercury Mountaineer headed upvalley on Highway 82 struck and killed an unusually large black bear, two miles west of Brush Creek Road.

According to Randy Cote, the regional manager for the state Division of Wildlife, the driver wasn’t speeding, but the road was wet and visibility was poor. The vehicle was “banged up pretty good” but not totaled, Cote said.

A state trooper was called onto the scene, but no tickets were issued to the driver.

While unfortunate, such incidents are “certainly not unusual,” Cote remarked, adding that at least this summer has seen fewer on-road casualties than last year. So far there have been two bears killed by cars in the area, whereas last summer’s valleywide total was seven.

Monday’s accident, however, may have involved one of the bigger bears around. The adult male weighed between 500 to 600 pounds and would have stood at about 7 feet 6 inches on its hind legs, said Slim Waechtler, owner of Slim’s Taxidermy.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and it’s probably the biggest one I’ve ever seen,” said Waechtler, who is stuffing the bear for display at the wildlife center at Elk Camp atop the Snowmass ski area.

All in all, wildlife officials have dealt with a fraction of the bear problems that last year led to “putting down” seven bears in Snowmass Village in addition to the seven killed on the road. This year, only one bear has been shot – for repeatedly killing animals at T Lazy 7 Ranch.

Police in Snowmass Village and Aspen attribute the difference to a greater food supply in nearby forests, brought on by plentiful summer rain, and the effectiveness of much stricter wildlife regulations cutting off potential bear food supplies in human neighborhoods.

“It’s a combination of factors. It would be wrong to assume that there’s one easy answer, but the difference between last and this year is pretty dramatic,” said Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe.

While it has been a quiet summer for bears, the most crucial part of the season is yet to come. Generally, September is a bear’s most active month as it fattens up for the coming winter, Cote noted.

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